Today: [Daniel 01] Introduction to Daniel. In this chapter we have the beginning of Daniel, one of the most amazing and astoundingly accurate prophets of the Old Testament canon. The book of Daniel is hotly disputed against by Jewish authorities who refuse to include Daniel among their prophets. Secular historians reject Daniel as well on the basis that his prophecies are so accurate the must have been written after the prophesied events took place. For us, we accept the book of Daniel on its own terms, written by the prophet himself at the same time as Jeremiah and Ezekiel were recording the words of God in the books ascribed to them.
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[Dan 1:1-21 KJV] 1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel [the name] of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. 8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
We now come to the study of the book of Daniel. Daniel is not counted among the prophets in the Jewish canon, although Jesus Himself specifically acknowledged Daniel as a prophet in Matt. 24:15. In the decades following the destruction of Jerusalem in the 1st century, the book of Daniel was almost eliminated from the curriculums of Jewish teaching after the seat of Jewish learning was moved from Jerusalem to the city of Pella. Even today Jewish commentators are loathe to answers questions about Daniel, according to some because his writings are so profoundly Messianic and so deeply connected to Christ that they marginalized its importance in order to avoid the discussion. The authorship and dating of Daniel is hotly disputed because scholars reject the idea of actual and accurate prophecy, therefore they date Daniel to the 2nd century before Jesus because in their view the accurate prophecies of Daniel could only have been written after the events prophesied had already taken place. As believers, we accept the dating of Daniel to the time just after the destruction of Jerusalem because Ezekiel mentions Daniel in Ezekiel 14:14. To believe otherwise is to place ourselves among those who reject Christ for either religious or irreligious reasons. Daniel is a profound book, profoundly accurate in its prophecies and deeply Messianic in nature, written in the 6th century before Jesus, placing Daniel as a contemporary with the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
Who was Daniel? He was among the captives taken at the time the king of Babylon took Jehoikim in chains to Babylon. Jehoikim was a puppet king originally installed by the king of Egypt as an affront to the Babylonians. When Johoikim was taken to Babylon, articles of value from the temple were also taken, along with many captives, including Daniel. These captives were among the children of the elite of the city and were groomed for civil service according to the command of the king. Verse 4 tells us that these young people were educated in the science and knowledge of the day and fluent in the language of the Chaldeans to the degree they could be trained to serve in the king’s business at court.
Daniel was possibly descended from the tribe of Judah, according to verse 6 and his name means “God is my judge”. The prince of the eunuchs of Neburchadnezzar charged with the car of these young men renamed Daniel as Beltashazzar, which means “lord of the treasure” or possibly “Bel [Marduk], protect his life.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which [are] of your sort? then shall ye make [me] endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom [and] understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians [and] astrologers that [were] in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued [even] unto the first year of king Cyrus.
Early on in Daniel’s captivity he made important decisions not to be assimilated into the culture of the Chaldeans, beginning with his diet at the king’s table. V. 8 tells us that he purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king’s meat and drink, therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs for himself and his friend’s permission to have an alternative diet more consistent with Hebrew traditions.
The request of Daniel for an alternative diet was not small thing. The eunuch in v. 10 makes it plain that if this diet caused the 4 young men to languish that the eunuch might pay for it with his life. In v. 12 however, Daniel beseeches the prince of the eunuchs to test Daniel and his friend’s health after ten days on a diet of their choosing and to see if they didn’t fare better than their counterparts among the captives at the palace. V. 15 reports that at the end of ten days the condition of Daniel and his friends was much better in fact than the other young people who were partaking of the king’s meat, therefore Daniel and his friends were allowed to abstain from the pollutions of the king’s meat and drink.
This brings us to a discussion of the so-called “Daniel fast”. Verse 16 tells us only generally that Daniel’s diet consisted of “pulse” which means “something sown”. It is clear then that the diet of Daniel and his friends was strictly vegetarian. Because Daniel also declined to partake of the king’s wine, then the most logical alternative and perhaps the only alternative would have simply been water. The vegetables or “things sown” available to Daniel would have included fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Whatever the case may be this choice set Daniel and his friends apart from the very beginning and as a result they were highly favored among the captives at the king’s court and were promoted rapidly in the ranks of those being trained to serve in the king’s administration.
All four of these young men were quick in learning and judgment with the distinction made in Daniel’s case that he had an additional gifting to interpret dreams and vision. When the king spent time with these four he was particularly impressed with them, Daniel being the chief among then in understanding of all matters of wisdom and learning. Verse 20 tells us that the king’s estimation of these four was that he found them to be 10 times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his employ. This was the beginning of Daniel’s career in captivity and it lasted until the end of the first year of king Cyrus of Persia, therefore he would have served the king of Babylon during the course of his entire reign as Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel into his palace in the 1st year of his reign. The timeline of Daniel’s life would have made him contemporary with Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the events recorded in the book of Esther as well. Daniel according to Jewish tradition was assassinated by Hamon, the same wicked prince who sought the life of Esther’s kinsmen Mordacai. The tomb of Daniel claims to be located in no less than six different locations, the most famous being Susa, or Shush in southern Iran. To these day even in this Muslim land, pilgrimages continue to the great prophet’s burial place.
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